Nearby: Greenpoint, Bushwick
Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens to the east and the East River to the west.
In 1638 the Dutch West India Company first purchased the area's land from the local Native Americans. In 1661, the company chartered the Town of Boswijck, including land that would later become Williamsburg. Williamsburg was incorporated as the Village of Williamsburgh within the Town of Bushwick in 1827.
In the 1900s, Williamsburg prospered and was a hotbed of industrial growth. It was the home of Astral Oil, which later became part of Standard Oil. Charles Pratt, whose family founded the Pratt Institute, a respected school of art and architecture, launched the company. Corning Glass Works was founded in Williamsburg, as was Pfizer Pharmaceutical, founded by chemist Charles Pfizer and his cousin Charles Erhart. The area was also known as Brewers' Row as it was home to dozens of breweries.
It was the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in December 1903 that marked a historic turning point for the neighborhood. Now it was accessible to thousands of immigrants and second-generation Americans waiting for an opportunity to leave Manhattan's crowded Lower East Side tenements and build better lives for themselves and their families.
Prior to World War II, Williamsburg was the most densely populated neighborhood in the U.S. Following the war, it experienced its most startling changes, and rapidly became a melting-pot magnet for refugees fleeing war-torn Europe, particularly Hasidic Jews. At the same time, Williamsburg also drew Hispanics from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. By the 1980s, it had become an interesting blend of old and new. The area's renovated factories and industrial buildings are still attracting artists and entrepreneurs looking for large, open spaces and high ceilings, which they can carve into workspaces or studios and elegant living quarters.
The neighborhood is being redefined by a growing population and the rapid development of housing and retail space particularly catered to a wealthy population that has been historically foreign to the neighborhood. Williamsburg is often called "the new Soho" because it is home to both aspiring and established artists and musicians, as well as successful professionals and their families, who commute by subway, bus and bike to Manhattan every day. Williamsburg is an influential hub for indie rock, hipster culture, and the local art community.
The neighborhood’s richly diverse residents are really the heart and soul of what has become the coolest zip code in Brooklyn. Hasids, Latinos, Italians, Eastern Europeans and artists all living in relative harmony – it is hard to imagine, but it exists right here among the factory loft conversions, corner bodegas and stark gallery spaces.
Williamsburg made headlines when it became an artists' enclave, replete with cheap rents, lofty accommodations and a chilly attitude toward "outsiders". It thrived this way for a few years, just long enough to grab the attention of hip newcomers hungry for a bite of the Big Apple. Before long, the neighborhood evolved into an edgy, arty community so cool Manhattan's brightest trendsetters were clamoring for the L train.
Bedford Avenue serves as the main drag and is rife with sassy eateries, groovy bars, chic boutiques and tons of intriguing personalities, most of whom seem to be between the ages of 19 and 40. As you travel further out on the L train (or even walk a few blocks east of Bedford), the area becomes less gentrified (and more affordable).
Williamsburg is served by 3 subway lines, the BMT Canarsie Line (L train) on the north, the BMT Jamaica Line (J M Z trains) on the south, and the IND Crosstown Line (G train) on the east. The Williamsburg Bridge crosses the East River to the Lower East Side. Williamsburg is also served by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.